by Marjorie George
Consider the story of Nebuchadnezzar, told in the book of Daniel. The great king ruled Babylon from 605 to 562 BC. He was a mighty king, strong and daring; he grew the power and wealth of Babylon and himself by conquering many nations and extending the Babylonian empire from Egypt in the west to Elam in the east. In 597 BC he captured Judah, deposing its king, destroying both Jerusalem and the temple, and exporting a large part of Judah’s population to Babylon.
Having completed the subjugation of many peoples, Nebuchadnezzar set about rebuilding and adorning the city of Babylon by constructing canals and aqueducts and reservoirs surpassing in grandeur and magnificence everything of the kind.
Even modern research shows that Nebuchadnezzar was, indeed, the greatest monarch that Babylon, or perhaps the entire East, ever had. He appears to have built or restored almost every city and temple in the whole country; nine-tenths of all the bricks amid the ruins of Babylon are stamped with his name.
Then one day, as Nebuchadnezzar was strolling on the palace roof, he was so overwhelmed by his own achievements that he declared, “Is this not magnificent Babylon, which I have built as a royal capital by my mighty power and for my glorious majesty?” (Daniel 4:30)
And “while the words were still in his mouth” (4:31) a voice came from heaven saying something like “Are you kidding? YOU did all this? YOU are the most powerful? Well, let’s just see about that.” And suddenly Nebuchadnezzar was “driven from among men and ate grass like an ox [for the next seven years], and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.” (4:33).
When Nebuchadnezzar finally came around to God’s way of thinking, he acknowledged that, well, maybe it wasn’t he who had accomplished so much. Perhaps God was mightier than he. And Nebuchadnezzar offered praise and honor to the King of Heaven, saying,
“For all his works are truth,
and his ways are justice;
and he is able to bring low
those who walk in pride” (Daniel 4:37).
Definition of pride: claiming for ourselves the wonderful works of God, and trusting ourselves instead of the Lord God.
Marjorie George is editor of Reflections magazine and ReflectionsOnline. Reach her at Marjorie.firstname.lastname@example.org.